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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

West Urges Opposition to Join Syrian Peace Talks

Western and Middle Eastern countries have called on the various Syrian opposition factions to join peace talks in Geneva at the end of November. In a speech to a meeting of 11 nations convened in London on Tuesday, Syrian National Coalition head Ahmed Jarba said that the “Sultan”, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had to leave power before any peace talks. “Geneva cannot succeed and we cannot take part if it allows Assad to gain more time to spill the blood of our people while the world looks on”, he said. British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the Syrian opposition to join the talks, saying they would “form the heart of any opposition delegation to Geneva” and asking them to “make the compromises necessary for a peace process to work”. US Secretary of State John Kerry met opposition head Jarba at the sidelines of the London meeting, but there was no word on the outcome of the discussions.

Saudi Spy Chief Says Country Will ‘Shift Away from US’

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief and former ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, has told European diplomats that the kingdom will undergo a “major shift” away from the US if Washington failed to act decisively on the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prince Bandar invited diplomats to Jeddah over the weekend to voice his government’s frustration with the Obama administration, but it was unclear if he spoke with the backing of King Abdullah. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent. Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US. Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the US is growing closer with Iran and the US also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising”, said the European diplomatic source, adding that “they don’t know where the Americans want to go”.

‘Go Home’ Vans Scrapped

UK Home Secretary Theresa May has told MPs that the Home Office’s strategy of deploying vans in London plastered with controversial “go home or face arrest” messages aimed at illegal immigrants would not be extended nationwide, deeming them “too much of a blunt instrument”. The £10,000 scheme was scrapped after convincing only one immigrant from Pakistan to leave the country. “What I’ve done is looked at the interim evaluation in relation to the plans, and there were some returns achieved as a result of that”, said May. The vans had drawn complaints for using misleading arrest figures as well as for its confrontational tone and was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency. Business Secretary Vince Cable had called the campaign “stupid” while Labour MP Diane Abbott had said the poster was similar to “scrawling ‘Paki go home’ on the side of buildings”.

Cameron Condemns Facebook Beheading Clips

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Facebook’s reversal of its ban on beheading videos is “irresponsible”, tweeting that they should be accompanied by a warning and that the company should “explain their actions to worried parents”. “Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they’re connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events. However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see”, said a Facebook spokeswoman. The company later added warning messages to videos showing decapitations and other situations of extreme violence, but did not comment on the development. “It’s a step forward, but it’s still horrific content” said Will Gardner, chief executive of Childnet, a charity that aims to make the internet safer for children.

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